President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure law represents a landmark investment in transportation sustainability – allocating $65 billion to upgrade the nation’s electric power grid and $7.5 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle (EV) chargers by 2030. The law serves as a key part of a larger trend, in both government and industry, toward expanded commercial EV adoption.
Access to reliable charging stations and anxiety over their range have been the biggest hurdles to embracing EVs. In response, the law calls for charging stations every 50 miles along the Interstate Highway System, powered by an enhanced electric power grid to ensure the network of charging stations is reliable and secure from bad weather and cybersecurity threats.
However, the $7.5 billion in funding is only half of what the administration originally sought from Congress for the same number of chargers. This means that rather than deploying the highly efficient Level 3 operating chargers, the administration will likely install more Level 2 chargers, which can take upwards of 20 hours to charge. This causes concern, as the COVID-19 supply chain crisis has proven that trucking cannot afford to wait – trucks need to be able to move freight across the country efficiently.
Regulatory climate action in trucking is also underway. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) Truck and Bus rule requires companies to curb emissions by upgrading their fleets to 2010 model year or newer diesel engines by Jan. 1, 2023. Another new CARB rule requires all transport refrigeration units operating in California to be zero-emissions by Dec. 31, 2029. With California being the fifth-largest economy in the world, it has the leverage to set regulatory precedents for the rest of the United States. However, semiconductors and chip shortages are delaying new truck orders, causing prices for used trucks to surge, thereby making it difficult or too costly for some fleets to comply.
Commercial EV adoption remains slow – a February report stated there are only 47 zero-emission heavy-duty trucks in use in the United States. However, that same report predicted deployment of zero-emission Class 2b through Class 8 vehicles could increase more than 10 times over the next 10 years. Key industry movements could also signal that interest is accelerating. Last week, Cummins Inc. announced a $3.7 billion acquisition of Meritor Inc. for the stated purpose of developing zero-carbon solutions.
It will be crucial in the coming years for carriers and suppliers to recognize and adapt to the changing landscape wherein trucking intersects climate reform. We can expect to see the infrastructure law spending in action by late 2022. And regulatory policies, like CARB’s, will continue to push the needle for industry adoption. TCA is committed to dually positive outcomes – for our industry and environment.